Lobster Fishermen of Harris

In his evidence to the Napier Commission Kenneth Macdonald boasts that:

“There was no such thing as lobster fishing. I happen to be an agent of the first company that started for sending the lobsters to London.”

I thought I’d look to see what the census records have to tell us regarding his claim by researching those who gave their occupation as ‘Lobster Fisher’ from 1841-1901:

1851 – Kenneth Macdonald, 35, Factor’s Clerk, Rodil, b. Applecross, Ross-shire
NORTH (1)
Donald Maclean, 30, ED21, b. Harris
TOTAL 1

1861 – Kenneth Macdonald, 43, Sheep Farmer, Big Borve, b. Applecross, Ross
NORTH (10)
John Martin, 30, Little Urgha, b. Harris
John Martin, 21, Little Urgha, b. Harris
Angus Mcdearmid, 29, Little Urgha (Visitor), b. Harris
Malcolm Kerr, 48, West Tarbert, b. Harris
Dougald Macdonald, 43, West Tarbert, b. Harris
Donald Kerr, East Tarbert, b. Harris
Donald Mcleod, 27, East Tarbert, b. Harris
Malcolm Shaw, 40, East Tarbert, b. Harris
Angus Shaw, 36, East Tarbert, b. Harris
BAYS & SOUTH (4)
Roderick Mclennan, 52, Direcleit, b. Harris
Donald Mckay, 29, Cregstore, b. Harris
Malcolm Morrison, 34, Struth, b. Harris
Alexander Mcleod, 22, Obe, b. Harris
John Mcleod, 22, Obe, b. Harris
TOTAL 14


1871 – Kenneth Macdonald, 54, Farmer, ED5, b. Applecross, Ross-shire
No Lobster Fishermen recorded (Fishers of Harris has numbers of ALL the Fishermen for that year)


1881 – Kenneth Macdonald, 64, Big Borve, Farmer and Factor, b. Applecross, Ross-shire
BAYS & SOUTH (5)
Kenneth Mcaskill, 32, ED5, b. Harris
Donald Mcaskill, 27, ED5, b. Harris
Lachlan Macdonald, 29, ED5, b. Harris
Christopher Morrison, 28, ED5, b. Harris
Hector Morrison, 23, ED5, b. Harris
TOTAL 5


1883 – Napier Commission


1891 – Kenneth Macdonald, 79, Farmer, Hamlets Scaristavore, b. Applecross
BAYS & SOUTH (3)
John Mcaskill, 23, Kyles Stockinish, b. Harris
Kenneth Mckinnon, 45, Kyles Stockinish, b. Harris
John Morrison, 20, Leac a Li, b. Harris
TOTAL 3


1901 – Kenneth Macdonald, not found…
BAYS & SOUTH (28)
Direcleit
Stockinish (10)
ED7 (10)
Obe
Kintulavig (2)
TOTAL 28

Kenneth Macdonald may well have been single-handedly responsible for creating the Lobster Fishing on Harris, and presumably profiting nicely in his role as an agent, but if we look at the figures then there is plenty to consider.

Firstly, considering the years 1861, 1881 and 1891 we have a total of 22 Lobster Fisherman giving an average of a little over six such persons per year. In 1901 there were nearly four times that number.
Secondly, if we take 1861 then we see that there were 14 Lobster Fishermen which is still only half the number in 1901.
The significance? Well, by 1901 Kenneth Macdonald was gone yet the Lobster Fishing appears to have gained hugely in popularity amongst those risking their lives in its pursuit. For Macdonald to have the cheek in 1883 to talk of that industry as if it was playing a significant part in alleviating the poverty that he himself had inflicted upon the populace in attempting to assuage his endless appetite for land upon which to graze his sheep, when in fact just two years earlier there had been but a handful of Lobster Fishermen in the whole of Harris, leaves a disgusting taste in one’s mouth far-removed from that of the fruits of those brave fishermens’ labour…

First a Cousin, now two Half-Brothers!

The friend who had alerted me to my Grandfather’s Cousin, Donald Kerr, serviing with the Canadian forces in WWI contacted me today to ask if a Malcolm Kerr Maciver who is recorded here might be related too?

In the course of confirming that this was indeed my Grandfather’s Half-Brother, I noticed a second name on the list and, having checked for the possibility that it might not be the case, confirmed that Malcolm’s brother Alex John was there too: http://lewis-canada.blogspot.com
I should point-out that I have devoted comparatively little resources to exploring the Maciver family (William & Annie had 7 children between 1882 and 1895) so have yet to see what became of them all.
William and Annie were cousins, their respective mothers being two Macdonald sisters who had come to Stornoway after the Clearance of Orinsay in 1843.
These mothers, and countless other people, were deemed not ‘profitable’ enough for those who lauded the land but their sons, and countless others, did not hesitate to heed the call to fight, even those of them who were to be found all the way across the Atlantic:
The quote below, from within evidence to the Napier Commission that graphically describes such Clearances, proved not to be prophetic and the isles can claim to have supplied proportionately more men to ‘The Great War’ than any other part of the British Isles:
“It would appear that, when Britain becomes involved in a struggle with another nation in the future, they must send for the deer and sheep of Harris as well as its young men, and then they can see which is the best bargain.”John Macleod, 13th June 1883, Tarbert, Harris

Lance Corporal Alex John Maciver b.16 January 1882
Carpenter
Last address in Lewis: 6 Plantation Road
Not married Next of kin: William Maciver, Father, of Stornoway
Canadian Engineers – Service number: 135382
Volunteered at Toronto on 29 July 1915
Twice wounded. Attestation papers not available*
(Note: the Front page is available, the second is missing)


Sapper Malcolm Kerr Maciver b.19 January 1890
Salesman
Last address in Lewis: 14 Plantation Road
Current address: 61 Crawford St, Toronto
Not married Next of kin: Annie Maciver, Mother, of 14 Plantation Road
Canadians – Service number: 766056
Volunteered at Toronto on 6 December 1915

Update: I was delighted to discover that both my Great-Uncles survived the war and married in Canada.
On the 28th March 1921, 39 tear-old Alexander John Maciver wed an Englishwoman, Annie Darch age 35, in York, Ontario. Her father was a Carpenter from London.  Malcolm Kerr Maciver married Philadelphia-born Charlotte Mary Flavelle on the 28th June 1924. Her father, who was working in a Carpet Mill in 1910, came from Ireland whilst her England-born mother was the daughter of Scottish parents.

Alexander John and Annie had a son, William who was born on the 13 April 1923.
He, like his father before him, went to war but unlike him young William never got to return home.
On the 25th July 1944 he was killed in France and is buried alongside nearly 3,000 fellow Canadians who fell during the battle for Normandy… http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/campaigns/northwesteurope/normandy.htm
(Operation SPRING, ‘the costly attacks on the Verrieres Ridge’, began on 25 July 1944)

RIP William Alexander Maciver (1923-1944)
of, according to http://lewiswwar2.blogspot.com/2008/01/stornoway-steornabhagh.html , 3 Westview Terrace, Stornoway.

Update 2: Investigating further, it appears that William Alexander Maciver’s mother, Annie Darch, had a brother who emigrated to Michigan where he met and, in 1919,  married Adolphina Hemberger from Erling near Munich in Germany. In 1933 Annie and the 9 year-old William made the 350-mile trip to visit her brother, Adolphina and their 13 year-old son, Robert.
The 21 year-old Musician Robert Darch enlistedwith the US Army in 1941 and appears to have survived.
It must have been a terrible time for Adolphina, the migrant from Germany, and made all the worse when the news reached them of her husband’s nephew’s death in the Battle for Normandy.

Donald Kerr in the Canadian Expeditionary Force

Until this morning I was unaware of any of my relatives having participated in ‘The Great War’, as WWI once used to be called. A communication arrived alerting me to to this entry which proved a double surprise.

Firstly, because of it being a cousin of mine and, secondly, because I also wasn’t aware that he had emigrated to Canada! I immediately checked on Ancestry.co.uk and there, in the Canadian records that I had no previous reason to search with regard to Donald, was the original ‘Attestation Paper’, presumably completed, or at least signed, in his own hand. The Regimental Number is shown as 197, but I am ignorant as to whether that is his personal Service Number or just a record that he was the 197th volunteer? A ‘Sapper’, of course, is a military engineer and when one thinks of the trenches of WWI and the quantity of woodwork utilised in their construction it is obvious why a Carpenter would be directed into such service.

I knew that he was born on the 7th of April 1884 but didn’t know that he was a Carpenter, nor that he had served for 3 months with the ‘Rossshire Artillery Stornoway’, the Artillery Reserve whose training ground gave ‘Battery Point’ in the town its name.

When Donald signed the document on the 20th of March 1915 he was in Winnipeg, Manitoba. According to the entry in Lewismen in Canadian service his last address in Stornoway had been 64 Keith Street. In 1901 the 17 year-old Scholar was in Mackae’s Buildings, Plantation St, Stornoway and before that, in 1891, at 13 Church Street, Stornoway.

Donald was the eldest child of Alexander John Kerr and Margaret Macarthur and his cousin Alex Macarthur fell at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Donald, as far as I am aware, died in Stornoway in 1935 at the age of 51 which is one reason why I never suspected that he had ever left Lewis, let-alone served with the Canadians during World War I.

Some 15 years after Donald signed that Attestation Paper in Winnipeg, his cousin John’s daughter (my Aunt) emigrated to Canada. She and her husband left Aberdeen for him to take-up a post as Assistant Professor of Chemistry at one of the Universities in that vast country. As it happens, it was the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg…

Update: Thanks to the contributor whose comment appears below, I can now order Donald’s record from Ottowa but meanwhile am reading the Diary of the Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps here .
A couple of extracts:
July 8 1916 Bergue – HRH The Prince of Wales had tea in No 2 Coy’s mess
July 9 1916 Bergue – In a.m. party attended Sports Troop of 2nd Army Supply Column at le NIEPPE. Tug-of-war finals won by Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps.
(The Prince of Wales war service is described here )
A painting of the work of the CORCC in the Senate of Canada’s Parliament Building – http://www.voiceseducation.org/category/tag/railway-construction-france-leonard-richmond

Update 2: Apparently the CORCC began with 540 volunteers from the Canadian Pacific Railway in early 1915. Collectively the Canadian Railway Troops laid in excess of 2,500 miles of track during the war.

The remains of what I presume to have been the Sidings at Wippenhoek ?

Update 3: When Donald died on the 14th of December 1935 at 10 Bayhead, Stornoway his occupation was given as ‘Building Contractor’ providing more credence to my suggestion that he played a hand in the construction on the Lewis War Memorial .

Update 4: Alexander McArthur, son of Isabella McArthur, of 48 Lewis St, Storonoway, Ross-shire, and the late Alexander McArthur. Able Seaman Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Clyde Z/3622). Killed, aged 26, whilst serving aboard HMS Defence at the Battle of Jutland (North Sea) 31/05/16. Commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial. Source: CWGC Casualty Details data base.

"tolsta Peats"…

…was the Address recorded for 62 people from 11 families on the the night of 31st March/ 1st April 1901.

This small group from Tolsta in the Parish of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis represent about 9% of the settlement’s population. They ranged in age from 63-year-old George Macelod down to the 3-month-olds Christina Macelod and Donald Macleod.
I presume this group were engaged on an extended excursion of communal peat-cutting and, if this proves correct, they are uniquely recorded in the census records whilst doing so.

Update: I’ve been contacted by the NTHS (see below) informing me that ‘Peats’ is an area in the village where some people built their houses and hence these 62 were not cutting peats at the time of the census!
I am extremely grateful to the gentleman who emailed with this clarification. What remains unusual about the entries is that the Enumerator put the addresses in quotation marks and with a lower-case ‘t’ – “tolsta Peats”.

The North Tolsta Historical Society has a site that includes these http://www.tolsta.info/quickfacts.htm

SS Oronsay in 1901

This Glasgow-registered ship (ON 111292) was ‘Off Sunk Lightship, River Thames’ on the night of the census. 49 year-old Captain Alexander Ellis from Kincardine, Fife and his crew were engaged upon ‘Foreign Trade’ and this Western Steam Ship Company vessel’s presence is mentioned here .
One member of that crew was 26 year-old George Mackinnon from Harris. He was the son of Mary, a Webmaker (Tweed), of 3 Leachin, perhaps a mile along the road out of West Tarbert towards Lewis.

View along West Loch Tarbert from Leachin

There are two later ‘Oronsay’ ships listed here and the fact that the earlier of these two was built in 1925 leads me to wonder if the 1900-built one had already been lost? I can find no record of the Western Steam Ship Company, either.

Mckinnons of Harris in Walsall

One of the rare instances I can find of Hearachs living in England and identifying the Isle of Harris as their place of birth are the four Mckinnon brothers in 1891. Headed by Draper John (29) are Draper’s Assistants Alex (23), Donald (21) and Norman (22) plus their Dumfriess-shire born Housekeeper, Jessie Haining (27) of 51 Lower Hall Lane, Walsall, Staffordshire.
The best-fit I can see from 1881 is the family of Malcolm Mckinnon, Carpenter of Boats, in South Harris ED3.
His sons are John (20), Alexander (13), Donald (11) and Norman (4). He and his wife, Mary, have three further sons and a daughter but it is these four who I believe became the Drapers in England a decade later.

I think that by 1901 the brothers had gone their separate ways and a Draper, John Mckinnon (38) from Harris is found at 13 Princes Street, Glasgow with his wife and infant son. With them is John’s brother, Peter (23), who is now a Draper’s Assistant but who back in 1881 was the youngest of the eight Mckinnon children in the family of the Boat Carpenter on Harris.

Note: I believe the other three brothers remained in England but that’s for another day…

Update! 1901 Censuses:
Alexander Mckinnon, 30, Draper’s Assistant, 13 Cradock St, Swansea, Wales, b. Scotland
(Not England, but Wales!)
Norman Mckinnon, 23, Draper’s Assistant, 82 Castlegate, Malton, Yorkshire, b. Scotland
Norman was a little harder to locate (he was 13, not 23 in 1891?)

I cannot be completely certain that these are the correct people, but they are remarkable coincidences if that is not the case. Of Donald, I can currently find no trace…